How to deal with conflict
Ever get the urge to just “knock some sense” into someone?
Or at the very least, give them a verbal beat down that will “set them right” – and maybe let us blow off a little steam?
Take Paul’s protégé Timothy as an example.
He’s in a major metropolitan city he didn’t grow up in, he’s (at most) 30 years old, he’s in charge of the entire Christian church family in the city, and Paul has charged him with combating false doctrine and incorrect teachings of others.
How much conflict is going to come his way? How many folks will be coming at him to argue with him? Think he’ll have days where he feels the need to put someone in their place?
The Greek word for rebuke means just that – to strike or beat upon, to chastise with words. I’m sure there were more than a few people (even some of them believers) who would have needed a strong dose of correction.
But look at how Paul says the young leader Timothy should handle those people:
1 Timothy 5:1-2
Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and with all propriety, the younger women as sisters.
While a rebuke would be a sharp, cutting word of correction, Timothy’s choice to exhort the person sits at the opposite end of the spectrum. The Greek word translated exhort means to call to one’s side, to encourage and strengthen by consolation, comfort, or instruction.
Paul knew his Old Testament well. As he directed Timothy, he likely had this proverb in mind:
A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath.
In a separate letter, Paul reminded the believers in Rome:
Or do you despise the riches of His kindness, restraint, and patience, not recognizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
Going toe-to-toe with an angry patron would make it difficult for Timothy to reach them with lasting correction and change. Nor would harsh words model how God treats us.
One last observation to make. Did you see the extra note Paul included for Timothy’s interaction with younger women? With all propriety, [exhort] younger women as sisters. We’ve all seen it too many times. A high-ranking church leader losing his reputation, his job, and his influence for Christ due to an inappropriate relationship with another woman.
Men, hear me clearly – if we do not keep ourselves intentionally pure and sinless in this area, especially with younger women, then we are inviting destruction into our lives. Carelessness in this area will bring shame to ourselves and significant damage to God’s reputation in this life…and then we’ll have to answer to Jesus at the Bema Seat judgment. You don’t want that. I don’t want that. We must take any steps necessary to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.
So, here’s Paul direction to Timothy, all fleshed out:
Do not rebuke and older man, but exhort him as a father
Do not rebuke a younger man, but exhort him as a brother
Do not rebuke an older woman, but exhort her as a mother
Do not rebuke a younger woman, but – with all integrity – exhort her as a sister.
Put these into practice, and you will reflect God to others.